“A more biblical vision would see the Church as guardian or custodian of the sacred text. Just as the Jews, the Church of the Old Testament, discharged their obligations with regard to the Scriptures, so should the Church under the New Covenant. What God had spoken through His prophets was entrusted to His covenant people. They had received, as part of their covenantal inheritance, the covenants, the law, and the promises (Rom. 9:4), all of which were contained for them in the Scriptures. As we saw earlier, they had been given the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2). This is in sharp distinction from the view held by many in the modern Church, which says that the oracles of God should be committed to the scholarly unbelievers down at the University of Whatzit, and marketed by the very important suits and ties down at Zondervan and Thomas Nelson” (Mother Kirk, pp. 58-59).
“No, we have such ease, such liberties, that, were our forefathers raised out of their graves to see, they would admire God’s goodness and bless Him with meltings of heart; but we spend that strength in siding, wrangling, contending, quarreling, vexing, and opposing one another that we should spend in magnifying, blessing and praising the name of God for the mercy we enjoy” (Jeremiah Burroughs, Irenicum, p. 5).
1. Our Lord Jesus, in the night wherein He was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of His body and blood, called the Lord’s Supper, to be observed in His Church, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself in His death; the sealing all benefits thereof unto true believers, their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him, their further engagement in and to all duties which they owe unto Him; and, to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Him, and with each other, as members of His mystical body (1 Cor. 11:23–26; 10:16–17, 21; 12:13).
The Lord Jesus established this sacrament the night He was betrayed, and the sacrament is very rich in meaning. It is to be commemorated in the Church until the end of the world. For most evangelicals, the meaning of the Supper is limited to the first one mentioned here—and while the understanding is accurate, as far as it goes, it does not go very far. But the import of the Supper goes far beyond a mere memorial. It means:
1. A memorial of Christ’s self-sacrifice;
2. A sealing of all the benefits of Christ’s death unto true believers;
3. A spiritual nourishment of all true believers who partake;
4. A covenant renewal on the part of those who partake;
5. A bond from Him of the fact that He is our God and we are His people;
6. A communion with our fellow believers, fellow members of the body of Christ.
2. In this sacrament, Christ is not offered up to His Father; nor any real sacrifice made at all, for remission of sins of the quick or dead (Heb. 9:22, 25–26, 28); but only a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all: and a spiritual oblation of all possible praise unto God, for the same (1 Cor. 11:24–26; Matt. 26:26–27): so that the popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of His elect (Heb. 7:23–24, 27; 10:11–12, 14, 18).
As far as the issue of sacrifice is concerned, the Supper is no real sacrifice, but only a commemoration of a sacrament. But to say it is a commemoration sacrificially does not mean that it is only a commemoration in other respects. Christ is not sacrificed to the Father in the Supper. The Supper does involve “all possible praise” for the sacrifice Christ offered, but this is not the same as a sacrifice. The doctrine of the perpetual sacrifice in the Mass is therefore injurious and insulting to the once for all death of Christ on the cross for sins. So the Table is not a sacrifice proper, but it is an sealing “proper,” nourishment “proper,” covenant renewal “proper,” a bond or pact “proper, and a communion with all other saints “proper.” In other words it is a false inference to say that because the Supper is not “really” a sacrifice, then it is not “really” anything.
3. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed His ministers to declare His word of institution to the people; to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to an holy use; and to take and break the bread, to take the cup, and (they communicating also themselves) to give both to the communicants (Matt. 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; Luke 22:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–26); but to none who are not then present in the congregation (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20).
What are the constituent elements of the Supper? What does it take for the Supper to be held?
1. The minister needs to declare the words of institution, showing his authorization to hold the Supper;
2. He should pray;
3. He should bless the bread and wine so that they are sanctified, set apart for this use;
4. He should break the bread;
5. He should take the cup;
6. He should distribute both to the communicants;
7. And his distribution should be limited to those who are present.
4. Private masses, or receiving this sacrament by a priest, or any other, alone (1 Cor. 10:6); as likewise, the denial of the cup to the people (Mark 14:23; 1 Cor. 11:25–29), worshipping the elements, the lifting them up, or carrying them about, for adoration, and the reserving them for any pretended religious use; are all contrary to the nature of this sacrament, and to the institution of Christ (Matt. 15:9).
Distortions of the Supper include these features: private communion, denial of the cup, worshipping the elements, acting in such a way as to provoke such worship, and setting them aside for other religious use.
5. The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ (Matt. 26:26–28); albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before (1 Cor. 11:26–28; Matt. 26:29).
The outward elements are not transformed in their nature by any act of consecration. They truly become the body and blood of Christ sacramentally, not physically. The elements remain bread and wine.
6. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament, and hath been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yea, of gross idolatries (Acts 3:21; 1 Cor 11:24–26; Luke 24:6, 39).
The doctrine of transubstantiation is contrary to Scripture. Not only so, but it is also contrary to common sense and reason. It maketh no sense. The error is not a trivial one, because it overthrows the sacrament, and provokes the people into superstition and idolatry.
7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements, in this sacrament (1 Cor. 11:28), do then also, inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally but spiritually, receive and feed upon, Christ crucified, and all benefits of His death: the body and blood of Christ being then, not corporally or carnally, in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet, as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses (1 Cor. 10:16).
Those who partake of the sacrament really feed upon Christ. But in order to truly feed upon Christ, it is not necessary for the bread and wine to be changed. We feed upon Christ by faith (which is not the same as saying we pretend to feed upon Him). We feed spiritually through the bread and wine presented to our outward senses. Christ is presented to us in the sacrament. We see Him there by faith, and not by sight. Christ presents Himself to the faith of believers in the same manner that the physical elements present themselves to our hands and mouths.
8. Although ignorant and wicked men receive the outward elements in this sacrament; yet, they receive not the thing signified thereby; but, by their unworthy coming thereunto, are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to their own damnation. Wherefore, all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Him, so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table; and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries (1 Cor. 11:27–29; 2 Cor. 6:14–16), or be admitted thereunto (1 Cor. 5:6–7, 13; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14–15; Matt. 7:6).
According to the Confession, two types of men should be kept from the Supper—the ignorant and the wicked. When they partake, they do not receive what is signified. If this means that they do not receive the blessing promised to any right use of the Supper, then this is correct. But if it means that the wicked do not partake of Christ in any respect when they partake of the Supper, then I think this is wrong. The curses of the covenant fall upon wicked and ignorant partakers precisely because they defile the body and blood of the Lord. The reason they are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord is because they came to it in an unworthy way. When this happens, they eat and drink to their own damnation. They cannot defile what they did not receive. The contrast at the Table is blessings and curses, not blessings and no blessings.
With regard to the “ignorant,” we also want to be careful how we fence the Table here. There are types and degrees of ignorance. For example, there are ignorant people who ought not to be, and so they should be excluded from the Table because their ignorance is culpable. But a five-year-old is necessarily ignorant, and to some extent, so is a mature Christian. We are all
ignorati, but the Supper is given to nourish and strengthen us (see above). Consequently, we do not want to be maneuvered into saying that Christians should grow big and strong, and then we will give them some food. This aspect of the Confession has to be carefully considered when discussing the issue of child communion, although I do not believe it excludes child communion necessarily. It seems clear that the ignorance addressed by these words is a culpable and stiff-necked ignorance, and not the ignorance which every worthy partaker of the Supper confesses daily.
Sometimes the news brings you fun juxtapositions. The last one I heard about was a local newspaper carrying two stories — one about the removal of Christmas trees from the SeaTac airport, and the other about the terrorist organization Hamas helping Christians in Bethlehem decorate the town for Christmas. Heh.
But this is a new one, and HT to Drudge. On the one hand was the call from a weather guy to decertify (take away the credendtials of) any weather official who dared to be a global warming skeptic. Okay. We have health nazis, and education nazis. Why not weather nazis? But then, on the same page, we received notice of snow . . . in Malibu. Double heh.
We have noted before that we have a responsibility as Christians to understand the times. We do not seek to do so infallibly, but we do want to live our lives in wisdom. This said, there are many good reasons for believing that the conflict between the Christian faith and Islam will occupy in the twenty-first century the place that the Cold War occupied in the twentieth. Christians cannot afford to neglect this issue, and as we take it on, we will discover that the Scriptures teach us far more about this than we might have expected.
“And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren”
The context of this passage is the first flight of Hagar from her mistress Sarai. Sarai had suggested to Abraham that he raise up seed “by proxy,” but after Hagar had conceived, she began to put on airs, which Sarai obviously found intolerable, and so she arranged to have Hagar banished. An angel of the Lord comforts Hagar (vv. 7-8), and tells her to return to her mistress and to submit to her (v. 9). In the course of this, a prophecy is given—that Ishmael will be an ancestor of multitudes (v. 10). His name will in fact be Ishamel (v. 11). But then there is a very telling prophecy—he is going to be ornery; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand will be against him (v. 12). He and his descendants would be a great source of conflict. And so it has been.
Now the New Testament tells us that the typology of Ishmael was fulfilled in the unbelief of the Jews (Gal. 4:24). But given the nature of typology and prophecy, we do not need to stop there. The Koran explicitly identifies Muslims as the children of Ishmael, claiming that the Ka’ba in Mecca was actually built by Abraham and Ishamael (Surah 2:122-127). Now, biologically, this is quite possible, but it is also beside the point. If you have a people who have, for about a millennium and a half, identified themselves as Ishmael, it is not surprising that they have become spiritual Ishmael, even if they were not before. But Hagar “gendereth to bondage,” as St. Paul says, and another result of this is conflict—his hand against every man.
An Important Qualification:
We believe that Jesus Christ died for all the nations of men, and has purchased them with His own precious blood. This includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Indonesia, Egypt, and Pakistan. The fact that these places are largely unevangelized thus far is not an indicator of the future. Christ will not be satisfied until all of Ishmael is brought back into the house of Abraham. This obviously means that nothing said in this series of messages should be taken as expressing hatred toward Muslims. God loves the world, and all the nations of men, and so do we. But we live in hyper-sensitive times, and it has become a dogma among secularists that in order to love a cancer patient you have to approve of his cancer too. But this is not the biblical approach. Muslims are held in spiritual bondage by the tenets of Islam, a false and very destructive
religion, and it is not loving to pretend that this is not the case—all for the sake of political correctness. This is a topic where it is easy for cowardice to masquerade as love and tolerance, and where genuine love takes courage. Love does not refuse to speak the truth. How could it?
A Brief History Lesson:
Muhammad was born around 570 A.D, a native of Mecca. When he was twelve his uncle took him to Syria, where a Nestorian Christian monk prophecied over him. When he was 25, he married his first wife, Khadija, in a ceremony performed by an Ebionite Christian priest—a cousin of his wife. Fifteen years later, he began receiving his first “revelations” from the angel Gabriel. He was at first worried that it was demonic possession, but his wife assured him that it was from God. Three years later, he began to preach openly in Mecca about these revelations. He was rejected and handled roughly by his peers. Finally, thirteen years after his first revelations, he fled from Mecca to Medina. This flight marks “year one” of the Muslim calendar, and the flight is called the hijra. His first wife had died, and it was now that many of the distinctive features of Islam began to take shape. He married the daughter of one of his most loyal followers (a girl named Aisha, six years old), consumating that marriage when she was nine. He became a marauder and pirate, ordering attacks on Meccan caravans. Two years later, Muhammad began ordering assassinations in order to gain control of Medina. He took multiple wives, and finally in 630 A.D. he conquered Mecca, when he was sixty. Tribes from all over that area submitted to his authority. He died at age 64, of a fever, just four years later.
Before he died, Muhammad sent out letters to many world leaders, demanding their submission. In the years following his death, the Islamic faith exploded out of Saudi Arabia in quite a remarkable way. The high water mark of the first great Muslim expansion ended in France just shy of one hundred years later, at the Battle of Tours in 732 A.D.. Charles Martel turned back what had been, up to that time, an invincible force. Islam made it to India in the east, and France in the west. The Mediterranean had become a Muslim lake. And as one person put it, if the Nobel Prize committee had been active in the year 1000, all the prizes would have gone to Muslims. The next period of attempted Muslim expansion into Europe was some centuries later—the Ottoman Turks were defeated in the great siege of Malta (1565), the sea battle of Lepanto (1571), and finally turned back from Vienna in 1683 (ironically fought on September 11-12). The tense relationship between Islam and Christendom was very much like the relationship of Calormen to Narnia.
The Koran is not organized chronologically, but rather the same way the letters of Paul are organized in the New Testament—by length. This leads many people to think that “peace” verses in the Koran and “war” verses are all jumbled together, to be sorted out as the occasion demands. But the peace verses were from the first Meccan period, and they were abrogated by the jihad verses that began in Medina. “If we abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten, We will replace it with a better one or one similar” (Surah 2:106). This is related to the nature of Allah, and is quite distinct from what we receive from our triune God.
A Mirror of Christendom:
Pastor Leithart has written that Islam is a mirror of Christendom, and in it we can see many of our own failings and sins. It is more like a funhouse mirror, but that is why, in this series, we will be able to clarify what the Bible actually teaches on subjects like the law, and women, and the Jews, and submission to authority. We do this as baptized Trinitarians.
“Apart from that, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the technological revolution passed virtually unnoticed in the lands of Islam, where they were still inclined to dismiss the denizens of the lands beyond the Western frontier as benighted barbarians, much inferior even to the more sophisticated Asian infidels to the east. These had useful skills and devices to impart; the Europeans had neither. It was a judgment that had for long been reasonably accurate. It was becoming dangerously out of date” (Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? p. 7).
“For him [Taylor] as for them, the world itself is a metaphor, the gift of a loving God, and is intended to raise our affections to Him and to make us sing” (Daly, p. 176).
“But what we are experiencing is not the knowledge explosion so often boasted of; it is a torrent of information, made possible by first reducing the known to compact form and then bulking it up again—adding water. That is why the product so often tastes like dried soup” (Jacques Barzun, The Culture We Deserve, p. 40).